Home opinion-and-analysis Open Sauce RMS weighs into Google GPL debate

Author's Opinion

The views in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of iTWire.

Have your say and comment below.

Get all your tech news delivered to your mail box five days a week
iTWire UPDATE - it's FREE!


Free Software Foundation chairman Richard Stallman has weighed into the debate over whether Google may be guilty of a GPL violation or not by saying that what the search giant has done is not limited by copyright.


Google's use of a separate library, Bionic, used in its Android operating system for userspace application to interface with the kernel, was cited by an IP lawyer, Richard Naughton, as being a possible GPL violation as the library is under a more permissive licence than the kernel.

Android is based on the Linux kernel - which is distributed under the GNU General Public Licence. Android itself is distributed under the Apache licence.

Naughton's comments, in an article published in the Huffington Post and a detailed research note, echoed some of the statements made by Houston Law Center professor Raymond Nimmer.

The comments by Naughton have acquired a somewhat different hue, following the revelation that he had altered his online CV to remove a reference to the fact that he had done work for Microsoft. His inappropriate use of a quote by Linux creator Linus Torvalds to bolster his arguments has also attracted attention.

iTWire asked Stallman for an opinion as, increasingly, the allegations against the company appear to be driven by opposing commercial interests, the most recent evidence of which was Microsoft's filing of a case against Barnes and Noble over the use of Android in its tablet, the Nook.

"The allegations are that Google, in creating its Android program based in part on the Linux kernel, uses scripts to 'cleanse' Linux core header files, removing comments and some code," Stallman was told. "It asserts that the result contains no copyrighted material from Linux and distributes Android generally under an Apache licence which is less demanding as a copyleft matter on Google and on resellers than GPL v.2.

"The Linux kernel's copying file states: "This copyright does *not* cover user programs that use kernel services by normal system calls - this is merely considered normal use of the kernel, and does *not* fall under the heading of 'derived work'."

The FSF founder responded: "I have not looked at those files, but our lawyers' advice is that variable and function declarations and structures and such, which can only be done in one correct way, are not limited by copyright."

Linux creator Linus Torvalds has also added his opinion to the mix, telling well-known writer Brian Proffitt that the claim seems "totally bogus."

Well-known GPL expert Bradley Kuhn has said that the GPL violation claims by Naughton and others are speculative.

OWN THE FUTURE OF SOFTWARE

Tomorrow, 26 August we’re delivering a FREE day of high-impact content to give you the know-how to lead in the App Economy. Please don’t be sorry you missed it.

• Keynotes on how software is rewriting businesses the world over, including our own backyard

• View code level details with context and repair problems quickly

• Fix problems in minutes before they wreak havoc

• Streams covering DevOps, Security and Management Cloud from pioneers at the coalface.

Register Now - it's FREE!

CLICK TO REGISTER!

ITWIRE SERIES - IS YOUR BACKUP STRATEGY COSTING YOU CLIENTS?

Where are your clients backing up to right now?

Is your DR strategy as advanced as the rest of your service portfolio?

What areas of your business could be improved if you outsourced your backups to a trusted source?

Read the industry whitepaper and discover where to turn to for managed backup

FIND OUT MORE!

Sam Varghese

website statistics

A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

Connect